Are Jon Lester’s April Struggles for Real or Just an Aberration?

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Are Jon Lester?s April Struggles for Real or Just an Aberration? Since establishing himself as a major league pitcher, Jon Lester has exhibited a curious trend of struggling in April.

In Lester’s short career — he’s just beginning his third full year in the big leagues — the month of April has been problematic. Outside of April, he’s a Cy Young candidate.

While Lester’s 4.31 April ERA in 2008 isn’t shabby, he walked more than he whiffed — a 22/23 K/BB ratio — which is never good.

He firmed up his control in April of 2009, but his ERA continued to rise. And this year, his April ERA has ballooned yet again, with the K/BB mark taking a step back.

When evaluating things in the lens of just one month, and especially with just two full years of data to look at, one has to be careful not to fall victim to small sample size. Lester would certainly apply here if it wasn’t for one thing — his complete and utter domination after April.

April
Year IP ERA BB K
2008 39 2/3 4.31 23 22
2009 30 5.40 10 33
2010* 10 7.20 6 9
*Through games played April 17

When the calendar flips to May, Lester suddenly turns into one of the best pitchers in baseball (although he did struggle for part of May in 2009 as well). Throwing out April, his ERAs the last two seasons are 2.95 and 3.06, respectively.

In 2009, the 3.06 ERA ranked fourth among all American League pitchers post-April. In 2008, the mark was good for third, excluding CC Sabathia because he pitched half the year in the National League (and dominated, with a 3.83 ERA in the AL and 1.65 ERA in the NL).

After April
Year IP ERA BB K
2008 170 2/3 2.95 43 130
2009 179 1/3 3.06 54 192
2010*
*Through games played April 17

April is the first month of the season, so one possible explanation for Lester’s struggles is that he’s still rounding into game shape. It takes time for pitchers to build up arm strength, and you generally don’t see peak velocity from hurlers until June.

But isn’t that what spring training is for?

Whatever the reason, Lester’s struggled in April two straight years. Are the 26-year-old’s April struggles for real or just an aberration?

Share your thoughts below. The best comments will be read on NESN’s Red Sox Gameday Live or Red Sox Final.

April 17: Is Clay Buchholz ready for a breakout season?

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